“If we are to teach real peace in this world and we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
“Life doesn’t count for much unless you’re willing to do your small part to leave our children – all of our children – a better world. Even if it’s difficult. Even if the work seems great. Even if we don’t get very far in our lifetime.”
~ Barak Obama Speech, 2008
“Most smiles are started by another smile.”
Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened!”
~ Dr. Seuss
“Think and wonder,
wonder and think.”
~ Dr. Seuss
Danang cuisine makes an overnight stay worthwhile. New hotels and beach front resorts are going up at a fast pace and stylish Western restaurants and bars are opening to cater to the business and holiday visitors. Alongside these changes there is still plenty of authentic Danang cuisine to find. There is something exciting about turning down a small alley and discovering a delicious place to try Banh Cuon for the first time. Discovering the local food helps you see it’s a city straddling a transition from the old Vietnamese culture to the stylish, modern Western luxury.
Eating Well in Danang:
Don’t be fooled by the stylish Western restaurants and bars going up at a fast pace as you walk along Bach Dang Street between the Han Bridge and Nguyen Van Troi Bridge. Tucked in alleys and streets behind those riverfront hotels and restaurants are some of the best places for local Danang food.
I found a fantastic blog called Danang Cuisine. As I poured through the different reviews of street food and dishes I thought I’d never be able to navigate myself to one of those places. Being a native of Danang, the blogger Uyen, has mapped out the area for the best local food, so I went walking around to see what I could find in the area mapped out in Danang Cuisine Travel Tips.
I found Banh Cuon Tien Hung, 190 Tran Phu, and had a yummy experience. Banh Cuon is a dish of savory rice rolls made from steamed fermented rice batter filled with minced ear mushrooms, pork and minced fried shallots. It can come with a variety of side dishes like, sliced cucumber, tofu, lettuce and fresh mint and a dipping sauce called nvoc cham. You mix them all together in a small bowl and the blend of flavors is delicious. The couple that owns the modest little eatery spoke no English and completely set me up with the best meal. They were adorable and showed me how to put it all together to eat it and brought me tea after. All for $5.
For dinner stay in the same area and try to find a Quan Chay or vegetarian restaurant. After dinner stroll down Bach Dang Street to enjoy the view of the Han Bridge lit up at night and stop at any of the bars or restaurants to have a drink on the waterfront. Bach Dang Street is mixed with modern wine bars and restaurants like The Moon River Lounge or The Waterfront Bar and Restaurant right between old style Vietnamese shop front cafes where men sit outside drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes in worn plastic chairs. You feel the older generation of Vietnam side by side with the stylish, young hipsters.
Where to stay:
There are two prime locations to stay in Danang. The area from the right side of the Han River to the Beach is apparently referred by expats as “the Eastside” and boasts the beautiful Danang Beach. “The Westside” has amazing street food and restaurants.
New hotels are going up a fast pace and from my experience the service at hotels in Danang can be an issue. Many times people speak little to no English so be prepared to have patience with customer service and confusing encounters.
On “the Eastside” you can find a range of places to stay for any budget. The Crowne Plaza Dananag has rooms for $171 a night. It’s the largest beach resort in Danang with over 600 rooms and has the feel of a small city combined with the luxurious standards of the high end traveler. For the beach lovers who don’t mind being a bit further out of the city The Indochina Danang is on a beautiful strip of China Beach and rooms range from $30-$60 a night. The highly recommended Mango Hotel also on China Beach has rooms that range from $25-$35.
Staying at a hotel on “the Westside” allows for plenty of Danang Cuisine to explore in a short stay. The Sun River Hotel has rooms starting at $69 a night and if pay a little more for a VIP room ($75) and have a view of the Han River. There are a range of hotels along Bach Dang Street with riverside views.
Sights to See:
Walking along Bach Dang Street you can see City Hall, the Han Market and a view of the Han and Nguyen Van Troi Bridges. Vietnamese men standing on the promenade with their fishing poles and boats carrying cargo move up and down the river all day. For an Urban area like Danang there is surprising little traffic. It’s easy to find a metered taxi to take you where you need to go and if you stay in the “Westside” you can walk to the maze of street food and restaurants.
Marble Mountain is about 9 Km from Danang on the way to Hoi An. It is a cluster of five mountains that are actually marble and named after the five elements of earth, water, metal, fire and wood. The mountains have active temples, pagodas, caves, Buddhist statues and a sweeping view from the lookout point. The view is a 360 panoramic view of Danang, Marble Mountain Village and Hoi An. To make life easier there is an elevator up and down as an alternative to the long climb on the stairs. Definitely worth a visit either from Danang or Hoi An.
There are cranes and construction all over Danang showing it’s a Vietnamese city in transition. With the clean and beautiful China Beach on “the Eastside” and the local street food and cafes on “the Westside” spending a 24 hours in Danang can be a delicious and relaxing experience in a city that’s quickly changing.
I’ve signed up for another dive trip. This time I’ll be diving around Phi Phi Island and staying over just one night. The boat leaves early Monday morning so I have more time to hang out in Phuket.
On the Similan Islands trip I met a Thai woman who does tours of Old Town and it sounded fun. Jamie who owns the dive shop and who’s blog about Phuket I mentioned, really liked her tour. (He’s also giving me free rental equipment for this next dive trip so a shout out to Jamie!) It’s different then the beach towns of Phuket. It has funky cafes and guesthouses. It”s a great place to walk around with your camera.
I stayed at two guesthouses in the area, one called 99 Boutique and around the corner is Phuket 346. The second one is like an art gallery space and the rooms have different themes and retro furniture. I booked a room for one night at each place. I would recommend both places if you want to stay in Phuket Town and get away from the touristy beaches. A different experience all together. Both guesthouses are clean, with modern bathrooms and good locations. Each one has some history I learned on Chaya’s tour.
We started at 99 Boutique Guesthouse on Thalang Road. The building itself is 130 years old, it’s one of the original shophouses in Old Town. It was the first electrical store in Phuket, they introduced the TV set to Phuket and still have a black and white TV on display (that would make my brother feel old since he remembers black and white). The building is still owned by the same family, they have remodeled it and kept quite a bit of the original floors downstairs and some of the old furniture. They live in it and run it as a guesthouse. The only real complaint I had was that the walls are paper thin so you hear everything. People walking above you, talking below you. The rooms are tiny but a good use of space if you want somewhere for $20 that has a comfortable bed and a nice bathroom, with WiFi and a flat screen TV. It’s unique.
The second place was a cool and funky place called Phuket 346 and on Soi Rommanee. I learned that street was the “red light district.” This little guest house had an opium den downstairs and prostitutes upstairs, as did all the buildings on this little alley. Soi Rommanee means “alley of pleasure”. As I left Phuket 346 guesthouse one afternoon I noticed the two owners ( 2 Thai woman) watching a porn video on their MacBook Pro. I glanced over and kept walking and then laughed once Chaya explained what all this used to be.
We spent a few more hours exploring houses in the area, an old Phuket Mansion, and the night market. I really enjoyed spending half a day with Chaya and doing something different then the beach scene.
Her info is:Kritchaya Na Takuathung
Phuket Heritage Tours
I can put you in touch on Facebook.
If and when you come to Phuket it’s worth checking out Jamie’s blog for sure: http://jamie-monk.blogspot.com
I’ll leave you with some shots of Old Town as I head to Phi Phi Island for a few days of diving…a picture is worth a thousand words…so here you go….